Among the sheltered gems nestled within Abel Tasman National Park you’ll find the stunning Totaranui Beach. With clear blue waters and golden sands, this is the ideal spot to unwind after a spot of trekking; to cool down with a swim; or to try your hand at kayaking and fishing. There’s also a campground nearby if you want to spend a little longer taking in your surroundings.
In the summer months, visitors from all corners of New Zealand flock to the Bay of Plenty to spend some time at Mount Maunganui Beach. There’s a reason for it: not only is the beach incredibly picturesque, with white sands and its namesake mountain adorning the landscapes, but it also offers good surf breaks and even better swimming conditions.
Hahei is probably one of the most recognisable of beaches adorning the Coromandel Peninsula. Those familiar with these shores will know that Hahei is quite handy to some of the other local crowd-pleasers like Hot Water Beach, where you can dig a hole in the sand to create your own hot pool, and Cathedral Cove, famed for its cameo in The Chronicles of Narnia films. Hahei in particular is quite a good spot for a bout of sea kayaking.
Located in the Otago coastlines between the towns of Moeraki and Hampden, Koekohe Beach is known to marvel geologists and nature lovers alike with the extraordinary rock concretions clustered around its shores. The famous Moeraki Boulders that can reach more than two metres (6.6 feet) in diametre are the result of several millions of years’ worth of coastal erosion.
Part of New Zealand’s rocky West Coast, Punakaiki Beach is best renowned for its layered Pancake Rocks and surrounding blowholes. The beach is also noteworthy for its limestone gorges, fishing and kayaking spots, as well as the surrounding coastal and forested tracks that take visitors from the seaside into the neighbouring Paparoa National Park.
Venture along to the ‘far north’ of the North Island to reach the stunning Ninety Mile Beach. Its coastline begins just north of Kaitaia, stretching 88 kilometres (or 55 miles, the beach is a bit of a misnomer) towards Cape Reinga along the Aupouri Peninsula. This beach is desirable for its left-hand surf breaks, four-wheel drive accessible sands, as well as being a prime spot for fishing – there’s an abundance of snapper (a white-flesh fish) to be caught along its waters.
Piha is one of the most iconic beaches on Auckland’s west coast. Ruggedness is a strong part of its appeal: not only because of the turbulent wave swells that make this a desirable surfing destination, but also because this beach offers a stunning backdrop that has inspired cinematic feats – Piha was one of the key settings for the feature film The Piano.
Part of the Tutukaka Coast, Whale Bay is the place to bask at some of New Zealand’s most pristine white sands while you’re immersing yourself in a lush forested scenery. This beach is quite a good spot for picnics, swimming and snorkelling. Head to the grove-lined bushes to access several walking tracks that connect Whale Bay to Matapouri Bay and other sheltered beaches lying in between.
Matapouri Bay is a white-sand beach with a peaceful estuary right on its doorstep. At low tide, the beach reveals one of its most stunning features: the Mermaid Pools, a series of picturesque rock pools which are ideal for some fresh water swimming. Walking tracks flanked by bush-lined headlands are another strong suit. The local estuary is another desirable swimming spot: it’s so safe that locals are wont to leap off its bridge during high tide to plunge into the otherwise peaceful waters.
Ohope Beach is located in the eastern Bay of Plenty just six kilometres (3.7 miles) east from the coastal town of Whakatane. With consistently warm waters and safe swimming conditions, this is a great go-to for holidaying families. You can also explore the surrounding islands by kayak or boat, and a handful of other white sand beaches are merely a quick coastal walk away.
Oriental Bay is one of Wellington’s most popular beaches. Its proximity to the city centre is a definite drawcard, but it’s the serene shores and safe swimming conditions that keep the crowds coming back. Whenever the weather’s bright and sunny in the capital city, this beach in particular comes alive with activity: you can see people walking their dogs by the promenade, sitting by the sands with some ice cream and admiring the wonderful vistas on show.
Castlepoint is located on the Wairarapa coast, just 50 minutes outside of Masterton in the wider Wellington Region. The beach has become quite adored by New Zealand summer crowds because of its historic lighthouse (which is one of the last two remaining beam houses in the country), its photogenic lagoon, rocky fishing spots and highly-regarded surf breaks. If you’re walking up to the lighthouse, make sure to keep an eye out for the native seabirds and native fur seals that call the area home.
Tunnel Beach is nestled 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) southwest of Dunedin. A collection of sea-carved sandstone cliffs, rock arches and caverns make this quite a spectacular piece of coastline. The beach is also noteworthy for its accessible nature: a short walking track will lead you to the secluded shores, where you can catch a glimpse of some fossilised remains, mysterious carvings and the man-made tunnel that continues to captivate the masses.
Wainui Beach is one of Gisborne’s top surfing destinations. The beach, which is part of the East Coast of the North Island, is noteworthy for its consistent left and right-hand surf breaks, as well as offering good swimming conditions and lots of scenic picnic spots. While you’re in the area, go for a stroll along the trails that run adjacent to the beach’s sand dunes, and also stop by the neighbouring Makorori Beach to get the most out of the waves that make this town such a hit among local and international surfers.
Oakura is a family-friendly beach in Taranaki, just 15 minutes south of New Plymouth city. Its namesake village and picturesque shoreline is known to attract the keenest of surfers – the beach is particularly attractive for those who are just starting out on the waves as it is well-patrolled and offers consistent wave conditions. Time your visit to coincide with the end-of-year holidays and you’ll be able to enjoy the beach’s traditional New Years Day Carnival, which sets out to fundraise for the local surf lifesaving club.